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Is B2B the Next Big Opportunity for Partner Marketing? Q&A with Acceleration Partner's Kevin Osborne

In this Industry Spotlight Q&A, Martech Record speaks with Acceleration Partner's SVP Kevin Osborne about the lasting impact 2020 had on B2B ecommerce and the specific challenges B2B marketers need to overcome to take advantage of the partner marketing channel.

Q: Covid has accelerated the adoption of ecommerce, is that also happening in B2B, and do these have lasting power? A: The accelerated adoption of ecommerce has had a huge effect on B2B. As companies continue to build their eCommerce infrastructure to meet online demand, they increasingly need new software and services. These new B2B products and services can support everything from fulfillment to site management to marketing. In addition, we’ve seen a huge spike in ecommerce first and direct-to-consumer business models during the pandemic, as unemployment has soared and people have looked to create their own sources of income. Such an increase simply grows the size of the addressable market for B2B solutions. While the spike in people starting their own businesses may not indicate a trend, it is ushering in the rise of B2B solutions, which continue to create a clear return on investment for business owners. For example, Shopify created a virtual storefront for any shop owner seeking to move their business online. Ten years ago, most of these SMBs would need to spend a significant amount of money to hire a developer or agency to build their site. Today, however, they can sign-up and build this site themselves for very little. That accessibility has expanded the size of this market significantly. Q: What do you think are the unique characteristics of marketing to businesses? A: The number of stakeholders involved. With consumer marketing, there is generally a single decision maker who can quickly process the value, benefit, cost and risk of a purchase. A business, on the other hand, generally has a minimum of two to three stakeholders who need to review, discuss and agree upon a solution. That stretches out the sales cycle and requires more information to involve everyone in the decision process. Also, the business itself has its own set of needs and requirements. If an eCommerce company is looking at CRM software but finds that a solution does not integrate with their platform, there is a near zero percent chance they are interested in that CRM or would make that purchase. Think of a consumer who owns a Mercedes sedan getting advertisements for truck bed liners. You must ensure you are selling to the right stakeholders AND meeting the right organizational needs. Q: More touch points means attribution is a different challenge. As an affiliate marketer, how do you think about attribution and then commissioning the right partners? Two ways. First, it is crucial to be working across channels because there are multiple decision makers inside and outside the organization. For example, a consultant or an agency might be a key influencer or procurement. If you have a channel sales team, they will be crucial partners for you. In order to understand what channels impact which targets and to what degree, you must be working and communicating across the organization. This obviously reaches far beyond affiliate marketing and needs to be determined by a company’s internal data analysts and marketing leadership. But as an affiliate marketer, you need to acquire the skills that allow you to create relationships and strategies to operate beyond your channel. Second, within the affiliate channel, determining which partners are having an impact at what place in the sales funnel is more complex because there are more decision makers and an elongated sales process. To accomplish this, a number of enterprise platforms provide these click paths or touchpoints and analysis can be done to understand the weight and impact of each partner, allowing you to provide attribution across all partners participating in the conversion. Likewise, this needs to be incorporated into the touchpoints of the first point to ensure companies are paying the right channels for the appropriate amount of impact. Q. If I’m a B2B marketer, what skill sets should I be building in anticipation of these trends? There are two key skills necessary to capitalize on these current trends. First and foremost is the ability to build the framework and measure data to align with your company’s goals. The steps are:

  • Build a framework that aligns your KPIs with your organizational goals.

  • Work with a good 360 or multi-touch marketing tool that is designed to ingest all the touch point data.

  • Determine how you are going to measure: Are you going to be evaluating all channels on last-click, first-click, multi touch attribution? Are you seeking a general cost per acquisition, cost per lead, or cost as a percent of LTV?

  • Once this framework has been established, you need to evaluate all of your current efforts to understand which channels drive the most value and evaluate all new opportunities with consideration of your goals.

The second skill is the ability to build strong relationships. This may seem a prerequisite for any marketing function, but this is not about building relationships with the “brand and customers.” Rather, it’s about “you and partners.” You and your reputation need to be trusted internally and externally since B2B purchase decisions can have a large impact on people's jobs. The ability to build the aforementioned framework will require buy in from operations, marketing, sales and finance teams, for example. This same skill is required when working with partners, (re)negotiating contracts, training teams, etc. B2B products often come with higher price points, longer sales cycles and require multiple decision makers. Those decision makers need to trust their partners. Building up the partnership muscles that include negotiation, sales, and trust are crucial. Partner marketing is a great example of how these worlds come together. Any successful relationship requires not just the economic incentives but also the ability to work together to ensure shared success.


As Senior Vice President of Client Strategy at Acceleration Partners, Kevin Osborne is responsible for working with clients to understand their performance marketing objectives as well as overseeing the business development process. Kevin is a proven leader who has brought sales and operational expertise to start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike. Prior to Acceleration Partners, Kevin managed both the sales and customer experience teams at the Cambridge based start-up, Openbay. He was also a Team Leader for AOL’s advance advertising group helping to scale digital marketing programs for such partners as Groupon, LogMeIn and Blue Apron. Kevin holds a BS from Bentley University and an MBA from Babson College.

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